Primary English | Vocabulary Questions Type 2: Phrasal Verbs

Hello once again! Now that the examination is around the corner for most of you, I hope that you are making much headway with your revision.

In the last post, I wrote about how the questions in the Vocabulary MCQ section in Paper 2 can be categorised loosely into 3 types. They are: 

1. Similar but different! - Choosing the most appropriate word in the given context
2. Knowledge of phrasal verbs
3. Familiarity with common English idioms

I have also gone through the steps to help you select the most appropriate answer for the first type of question.

For this post, I will focus on the second type, which involves your knowledge of phrasal verbs. Before we start, let’s recapitulate what phrasal verbs are: 

A phrasal verb is an idiomatic phrase that consists of a verb (e.g. look) and another element, usually an adverb (e.g. down) or a preposition (e.g. on). Sometimes, a phrasal verb can contain both an adverb and a preposition (e.g. look down on). 

The meaning of the phrasal verb is usually different from the original verb. For instance, the verb ‘look’ means ‘to see someone or something’ but the phrasal verb ‘look down on’ someone means ‘to think that you are better than that person’.

Vocabulary Questions Type 2: Do I Know My Phrasal Verbs?

For this type of question, you are given four options of phrasal verbs. You need to choose the phrasal verb that is most appropriate for the given sentence.

Some questions list four different phrasal verbs as options for you to choose from, such as the example below:

A more challenging but common question gives the same verb for all four options, but the adverb or preposition given is different for each option, similar to the example shown below:

For both question types, you can use the same 2 steps, namely:

Step 1: Read the entire question carefully. This is an important step because it allows you to understand the meaning of the sentence in its entirety. You might miss crucial information if you stop reading as soon as you come to the blank in the sentence.

Step 2: Eliminate with content clues. This means you use clues found in the sentence to do away with options that do not fit the given context in the question. (If you already know the meanings of certain phrasal verbs and that they do not fit, eliminate them first by putting a cross beside the option. This helps to prevent making careless mistakes.)

Let me show you more clearly by using going through some examples!

Example 1:

Step 1:           Read the entire question carefully.

Step 2:           Eliminate with content clues.

Firstly, I will eliminate ‘fell in’ and ‘fell off’ because I already know that the meanings of these phrasal verbs do notgo with a ‘plan’.  The content clues such as ‘plan to kidnap’ and ‘because of poor planning’ suggest that since the kidnappers did not plan the kidnapping properly, they fail to kidnap the rich businessman.

Hence, the correct answer is (4) fell through because it is the only one which means ‘failed to happen’.

Example 2:

Step 1:           Read the entire question carefully.

Step 2:           Eliminate with content clues.

The content clues ‘throwing tantrums’ means to show your displeasure and losing your temper. If I do not know the meanings of any of the above phrasal verbs, I will probably eliminate ‘acted for’ and ‘acted upon’ first as these two will require a receiver after the phrasal verb e.g. acted for/ acted upon someone or something. 

Looking at ‘acted on’ and ‘acted up’, I will choose ‘acted up’ because when someone is angry, they will blow up. That helps me to make a more reasonable guess when I make links to other words I know.

Although these steps are useful in helping you to select the most appropriate answer, the most obvious way to excel at the phrasal verb type of question is to be familiar with the different phrasal verbs used in the English Language, especially the ones more commonly used. There are many books and websites that teach you about phrasal verbs and I have listed some websites you can visit below:






Thank you for reading this post. Leave a comment below and let me know if you have benefitted from the tips. Remember to keep a lookout for the final part. Take care and see you soon!

About the Author: Nora is an English Teacher at Lil' but Mighty. She is committed to providing students with a dynamic and nurturing environment in which they can grow and develop. One of her greatest strengths as an educator is instilling a love for the English Language in her students.

Nora Kamal

Lil' but Mighty Education Centre Pte. Ltd., Block 431 Clementi Avenue 3 #01-326, 120457

After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts Degree from the National University of Singapore and later receiving my Postgraduate Diploma in Education from the National Institute of Education, I began my teaching career in 1998.

I am committed to providing students with a dynamic and nurturing environment in which they can grow and develop. One of my greatest strengths as an educator is instilling a love for the English Language in my students. I accomplish this by incorporating games and Drama conventions, such as hot-seating and freeze frames, into my lessons to spark their interest and make learning enjoyable.

In my years of experience, I have had the opportunity to meet students from various backgrounds and cultures. I have been able to establish positive relationships with and support the pastoral development of the students under my care. More importantly, I believe that working hand-in-hand with parents is the ultimate key in helping children to succeed.

Robert John Meehan once said, “Teachers who love teaching, teach children to love learning.” As a teacher who is passionate about what I do, I hope to equip my students not only with the necessary examination skills but also to develop them into thinking, creative individuals.